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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jun. 7, 201812:14 PM EST

You Should Know . . . Jaguars senior vice president and chief legal officer Megha Parekh

"We’re trying to focus on bringing huge marquee events into the stadium that will help elevate the profile of Downtown and Jacksonville as a market. "

Megha Parekh’s first job at a New York law firm included working on Shad Khan’s attempt to buy the St. Louis Rams and his acquisition of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now a five-year veteran of the Jaguars, Parekh is senior vice president and chief legal officer. Her job includes negotiating with The Cordish Companies and its plans to help develop Lot J next to TIAA Bank Field. She recently shared her story with the CREW Jacksonville group.

I’d grown up loving baseball and football mostly, but all sports because it was a great way for my older brother and me, children of immigrants, to relate to the people around us. When it came time to pick a law firm, I picked a firm with a sports group.

It was the recession. I worked on absolutely everything. I was so fearful of losing my job and I wanted to work very hard. About 18 months in was when the sports deals started coming out and I really wanted to take advantage of those.

In January of 2013 in New York, 4 o’clock, I was sitting in my office. It was getting dark. I had just interviewed for and didn’t get the job with the Cleveland Browns. I got a text message from a former client who was now working at the Jaguars and he said, would you be interested in coming to Jacksonville? And I thought, well, I don’t know exactly where it is. Let’s go and see what this is opportunity is like. 

The more challenging predominantly male environment is a New York City law firm. I was just 27 when I started here. I find that working with Shad (Khan) and Mark (Lamping) and Tom (Coughlin) and Doug (Marrone) and Dave (Caldwell), they’re wonderful to me. I work with more women in different levels of the organization now than I did when I was in New York.

Thanks to the power of social media, women finally are finding their voices and speaking up. We’re talking about holistic notions of changing the way that people think about gender and what that means in the workplace. What really helps is having men in positions of power as an ally.

I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12 years old. I’m terrible at it but playing it. I bought a travel guitar and I brought my guitar with me to the owners’ meeting in Orlando. I was sitting outside and, naturally too timid to talk to any of the billionaires that were sitting there, playing guitar. I had owners of other teams coming over and requesting songs and I ended up making connections with people that I probably ought to have the confidence to speak to in those settings. 

One of the great things about working with Shad is that his vision is for Jacksonville to stop thinking of itself as a second- or third-tier market and, appropriately and prudently but really with vision, develop itself as being more of a premier destination.

We’re trying to focus on bringing huge marquee events into the stadium that will help elevate the profile of Downtown and Jacksonville as a market. Daily’s Place opened last Memorial Day (in 2017). There is tremendous opportunity to develop around it.  One of the things that we think will really help Downtown is to give it a more dense, walkable district. We will be looking at hotels, which I think Jacksonville absolutely needs if you’re going to attract a large event, offices, residential, park space and walkable space all around it so this becomes a place where people want to live, work and play – and it helps attract jobs as a result. 

We’d like to make sure there’s something in place by the end of the year. Shad wants to move as quickly as possible, but we’re also trying to be thoughtful about the job. 

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